Monday, October 1, 2007

Movies: Chepachet

Because this is a small film, and because I know the screenwriter/lead male, and because I know the screenwriter/lead male reads this blog and has waited patiently for my comments on his movie since he screened it for me last week (you know you've hit the big time when you get private screenings), I will take the liberty of formatting this entry a bit differently, simply as working notes for the filmmakers. I might therefore seem a bit antagonistic, but that's only because for once, I know that my feedback will be taken into consideration.

For my three readers who aren't the screenwriter/lead male, you can read a summary of the film here: In case you are too lazy to click the link and read it, but not too lazy to read the rest of this entry, there are three key characters: Cole (the good guy), Lud (the bad guy), and Karen (the victim). I hate to oversimplify, but if you're lazy, that's all you get.

1. Cole's part is over-written. I don't have the screenplay, so I can't pick out any specific examples. However, he repeatedly states things that the audience can infer, either from something that has already happened, or from filmic cues concurrent with his speech. I imagine this happened in the transition from play to film, when the writer didn't realize the richness that the new medium would bring to the narrative. Cole's character is a thinker—a philosopher of sorts (think Walden Pond)—but thinkers of his quiet kind don't enunciate their every thought, or explicate their surroundings (except in their writing, of course). I wonder whether this can be fixed in the editing room, or whether it would require re-shooting, which is probably not doable.

2. Ken Coughlin is great as Lud. He's callous and gritty and self-centered and just mean. But the story provides no explanation of why Lud is what he is. There was an accident, we know, caused by Lud's drinking and driving, after which he became "worse," it seems, but why would someone like Cole be friends with someone like Lud in the first place, and why would they live together? If they used to be jolly drinking buddies, and the accident affected them differently, introverting Cole, and aggravating Lud, why would Cole continue the friendship? If we get a bit trippy, and read them merely as ciphers for the two diverging paths of desire, (Cole is happy to even bask in the presence of the desired, while Lud must posses it, even to the point of risking its destruction), this problem is solved, but then the accident becomes irrelevant (unless it is a shock that shakes these usually-conjoined faces of desire apart?).

3. I could do without Mrs. Ware's Girls. I see that the intention is to situate Karen's character, but I don't need Karen's character to be situated. She, if anyone, is a cipher—the noble savage and blond bombshell and naive child, all in one. Sitting in their one-room schoolhouse, Mrs. Ware's girls are too old (and too physically developed) to be "girls," and give one the impression that Mrs. Ware is running a MySpace-based brothel with these. . . orphans? learning disabled? Anyway, it's borderline icky, and definitely not necessary. It's something of a negative distraction that should be removed.

4. Thoughts on being "spare." I like that the film is spare. That is, there are very few characters (and I've just requested that the cast be further reduced), and very few sets (mostly one room of one house, and that house's garden). I have asked that the dialogue become more spare as well. Because the characters function more as types than fully-realized people with histories, being spare is key, so that the characters' spareness is read as intentional, rather than as a miscalculation. Things can be trimmed still to remove the threat of a scatter shot appearance (we did this because we could, not because we had to). I would need to watch again with pen and paper to be more specific about this.

In fact, I could be a lot more nit picky with a pen, paper, and second viewing, but only because someone's listening.

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